Wednesday, March 2, 2016


This novel is full of people who have hurt those who love them:  a father who beats his wife, a son who beats his wife, a husband who cheats on his wife, and a grandson who attempts suicide.  The father who beats his wife is an Albanian immigrant and political refugee whose young son Bashkim is one of the narrators.  Avis, another narrator, has to bear both a husband who leaves her for his young assistant and a disturbed son, Nate, who has become violent after serving in the Iraqi war.  Finally, we have Luis, also a war vet, who is so traumatized that he cannot remember certain experiences, including a troubling letter to new pen pal Bashkim, and is so guilt-ridden over the unnecessary shooting of a child that he tries to kill himself.  The lives of Nate and Bashkim converge in a tragic event, not unlike the shooting in the Middle East for which Luis cannot forgive himself.  Regardless of how depressing all of this sounds, I could not wait to get back into this book every night.  Many of the characters are seriously flawed, but Avis, Luis, and Bashkim drew me in, and I so wanted things to get better for them.  Avis is a particularly sympathetic character, having endured a horrific childhood, then having lost a daughter and then raised Nate, who was a good son until he wasn’t.  Then she loses her husband, too, and I think I would have lost my sanity.  She manages to keep it together, though, befriending Nate’s battered wife Lauren and debating to what degree she should get involved.  Her dilemma, as torturous as it is, pales in comparison to what Luis and Bashkim are going through.  Luis has almost buried himself in guilt, and Bashkim has witnessed happenings that no adult should have to see, much less a child.  If you’re thinking that perhaps these two can offer each other some solace, you’ll just have to read this book to find out.

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